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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 March 2008, 21:14 GMT
Salmond's Trump action 'cavalier'
Donald Trump

First Minister Alex Salmond took a "cavalier" approach to his involvement with Donald Trump's 1bn Scottish golf resort, a parliament committee said.

Holyrood's local government committee raised concern that a government decision to call in the plans came after "two five-minute phone calls".

But, following an inquiry, it said the unprecedented decision was "competent".

The Scottish Government said the probe had found ministers and officials had acted within planning law.

The cross-party local government committee launched the inquiry amid concerns of the government's handling of the planned luxury resort, for the Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire.

We are bitterly disappointed we had to go through this entire process which has been a major distraction for all concerned
George Sorial
Trump Organisation

However, its deputy convener and other committee members disagreed with several of its conclusions, while the Trump Organisation expressed "bitter disappointment" with the exercise.

The Scottish Government decided to have the final say on the golf plans after they were narrowly rejected by Aberdeenshire Council. They will now come before a public inquiry, due to start in June.

Mr Salmond has always insisted he had done nothing wrong and said meeting all sides of the debate was vital, given that the development was planned for his Gordon constituency.

Local government committee convener and Labour MSP Duncan McNeil also said it was "extremely unwise" for the first minister to "directly facilitate" a meeting between Trump representatives and Scotland's chief planner, Jim Mackinnon.

The committee report stated it seemed "astonishing" to accept Mr Salmond - who is removed from the decision-making process in the application - did not perceive there might be a risk in his actions, which might lead to legal action.

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"The committee believes that, far from taking a precautionary approach, the first minister was cavalier in his actions and displayed, at best, exceptionally poor judgement and a worrying lack of awareness about the consequence of his actions," the report concluded.

But committee deputy convener, Nationalist MSP Kenny Gibson, said the inquiry had wasted months of parliamentary time on "political tittle-tattle" and found no wrong-doing on the part of Mr Salmond and other ministers.

"Instead of using that evidence, the conclusions are based entirely on innuendo and accusation," added Mr Gibson, who, along with committee members and SNP MSP colleagues Alasdair Allan and Bob Doris, dissented from several parts of the report.

'Appropriate process'

Mr Trump's spokesman George Sorial said: "The committee has not found any evidence for the claims that were made both against Mr Salmond and the Trump Organisation because there were none.

"We are bitterly disappointed we had to go through this entire process which has been a major distraction for all concerned."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Ministers are pleased the committee has been able to produce a report which concludes ministers and officials acted in accordance with planning laws when issuing the decision to call in the application, just as the matter has been dealt with properly at every stage."

Donald Trump swinging a golf club
Mr Trump wants to build the "best golf resort in the world"

Aberdeenshire Council said the report had accepted that the local authority's decision-making process was "appropriate and valid".

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Nicol Stephen, who said the government's involvement with the application "smelled of sleaze", has been the most vocal critic.

Pointing out the report criticised ministers on 46 occasions, the party's Robert Brown said: "The conclusions of the report confirm that concerns about the government's handling of this application were justified."

Tory MSP David McLetchie, who proposed the committee inquiry, added: "The fact that the Trump Organisation is still here and wants to press ahead with the development is proof positive that it was bluffing in the first place, notwithstanding that it took 85 days for Finance Secretary John Swinney to order a public inquiry into the application."

Scottish Green MSP, Patrick Harvie, said the first minister's actions had created an impression of a government that "comes running whenever big business calls".

Iain McMillan, the director of CBI Scotland, said: "We remain convinced that by calling-in the application ministers did what was right for the economy."



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